What is Chemoembolization?
Chemoembolization is a treatment option used to treat tumors of the liver that cannot be removed by surgery because of the number of tumors or their location. With this procedure, interventional radiologists are able to treat tumors that have originated in the liver or that have metastasized there from other locations (for example, from colon or breast cancer). The treatment is palliative as opposed to curative, but it can be effective in the treatment of liver cancers, in particular when it is used in combination with other therapies. Chemoembolization may be contraindicated and not appropriate for patients who have cirrhosis of the liver, blockage of the blood supply to the liver, or blockage of the bile ducts.
About the Treatment process
In the procedure, a thin catheter is inserted into the blood supply to the liver, and attacks the cancer in two ways. First, chemotherapy drugs are injected directly into the blood supply for the tumor. This allows the delivery of higher doses of the chemotherapy drugs than with systemic chemotherapy, allows the drugs more direct contact with the tumor, and thus more time in which to destroy the cancer cells. In a second attack, a blocking agent (embolic material) is used to block blood flow to the tumors and thus shrink them by depriving them of oxygen and nutrients.
Chemoembolization has several benefits. It has a more powerful effect than embolization alone or systemic chemotherapy alone, and allows the chemotherapy drugs longer and more direct contact with the tumor. At the same time, injection of the chemo drugs directly into the tumors lessens the total amount of them in the bloodstream and thus reduces side effects. The procedure can shrink existing tumors and prevent the growth of new tumors, while allowing a relatively normal quality of life. The treatment can be repeated, and can be used in conjunction with other therapies.
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What To Expect
If your doctors decide that you are a candidate for this procedure, it will be performed in a hospital by MTV IR interventional radiologists, and usually requires a 1-2 day stay.
When you arrive for the procedure, medical staff will insert IVs for medications during the procedure and other monitors to measure your vital signs. In the procedure room, your groin area will be shaved and washed with a special soap. After a numbing medication is injected into the area, the interventional radiologist will insert the catheter into the large artery there and guide it into place in your liver using X-rays. Depending on your preference for anesthesia, you may either be awake during the procedure, or fully sedated. Chemoembolization can usually be completed within 90 minutes.
After the procedure, the catheter in your groin is removed and you will be asked to lie flat while the doctors monitor your progress. It is important to remain as motionless as possible during this recovery period to prevent bleeding and allow the puncture in your artery to close properly. You may experience some nausea, fever, pain or vomiting immediately after the procedure.
After your release from the hospital you should avoid driving for 24 hours, limit your activities, and avoid physical exertion or heavy lifting for several days. Full recovery usually takes 7 to 10 days, during which you may run a fever, and experience some fatigue and loss of appetite, but these are considered signs of a normal recuperation.